Extremadura is famous as the home of the highly prized Iberian ham. But the region has a lot more to offer such as amazing natural landscapes and valuable monuments. Extremadura has three UNESCO World Heritage sites. The archaeological site in Merida, the city of Cáceres, and the Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe are excellent places to visit. The region is also a favorite of birdwatchers as the natural setting here is an ideal home to different species. You can also visit the pastures where the pigs are raised to produce delectable Iberian ham. The region is also home to some amazing wines, visit the wineries to explore their offerings.
The fourth-largest wine-producing region of Spain has much to be explored, yet it remains relatively unknown for many. The Extremadura wine region is located in the central-western part of the Iberian Peninsula, it is made up of the two largest provinces of Spain: Cáceres and Badajoz. To the west, it is bordered by Portugal, to the south, Andalusia wine region and Castilla-La Mancha to the east.
Much of Extremadura’s vineyards were not intended to end up as wine at all. With the Sherry region of Jerez just a three-hour drive away, the region’s vineyards were a convenient and cheap source of grapes for making both Brandy de Jerez and the more neutral spirit used for fortifying Sherry. A good deal of the rest of their production was similar to neighboring Castilla-La Mancha, and became bulk wines for the lower cost end of the domestic and export markets. However, even though Extremadura has a low profile, it is starting to make its mark internationally by finding its own style.
The Best of Extremadura and What It Has to Offer
Local wineries have long lacked the modern technologies of winemaking, the basic wines produced in the region have not traditionally attracted the attention of the outside world. However, the Ribera del Guadiana DO, which was established in 1999 represents the best that Extremadura has to offer. Ribera del Guadiana DO brings together all of the wines in Extremadura and includes six different sub-regions. A little push to export motivated the wineries to increase quality, which resulted in a vast modernization of their winemaking facilities. Apart from the wines made under the Ribera del Guadiana DO designation, all others produced in Extremadura are permitted to use only the term Vino de la Tierra Extremadura. Vino de la Tierra is a less defined classification category than DO. Whilst Extremadura’s wines may not yet be world-famous, its cork supply is certainly appreciated. This remains an important export of the region and Quercus suber (cork oak) trees are abundant, particularly near Cáceres.
Tempranillo has traditionally been the favorite grape variety for the winemakers in Extremadura since it responds well to the regional terroir. However, more adventurous and innovative winemakers are also experimenting with international grape varieties. Extremadura’s vineyards are also home to local white varieties such as Cayetana. Some parts of the Extremadura wine region are also permitted to produce Cava, sparkling wine, which more often is associated with the northeast of Spain. This makes Extremadura wine region the most remote Cava-producing area, away from the heart of Cava production in Catalonia.
What to Expect from DO Ribera del Guadiana
DO Ribera del Guadiana produces reds with a minimum alcohol content of 11%, while whites and rosés have a minimum alcohol content of 10%.
White wines from Extremadura can be fruit-forward, lively, fresh and they are best-drunk young, which differ from standard warm reds of Extremadura.
The white grape varieties allowed in the Extremadura wines of DO Ribera del Guadiana are Alarije, Borba, Cayetana Blanca, Pardina, Viura, Chardonnay, Chelva, Beba de los Santos, Malvar, Parellada, Pedro Ximénez and Verdejo. And red grape varieties Garnacha Tinta, Tempranillo, Bobal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Graciano, Mazuela, Merlot, Monastrell and Syrah. You can see that although there are many international vines, there are also a a few classic Spanish grape varietals.
Wineries to Visit in Extremadura
Bodegas Marcelino Diaz
Bodegas Marcelino Diaz winery was founded in 1931 and they have been trying to revitalize Extremaduran viticulture in terms of quality, acquiring solid prestige since.
The winery produces light, harmonious, fruit-forward white and rosé wines together with highly expressive, well-structured reds, which after aging in American oak barrels acquire elegance and complexity
Pago de las Encomiendas is located in Tierra de Barros, in the southern stretches of Extremadura. The winery uses modern techniques to produce quality wines. They try to reduce mechanical stress on the wines, highlighting fresh and subtle flavours and aromas.
Grapes at Pago de las Encomiendas Winery are harvested at night, when the temperature is optimum, for acquiring high-quality, cool grapes to process.
Alcantara which is also known as “Raya” is a little town and a municipality located on the border between Spain and Portugal. It is famous for its historic heritage especially, for some of the most important constructions from Ancient Roman times. More than 200 meters long and 60 meters high the Roman Bridge, an engineering marvel that was built in the second century, stands over the waters of the Tajo River. The bridge has six arches and preserves an honorary arch dedicated to Emperor Trajan.
Besides Roman heritage, Alcantara holds valuable natural resources including Holm-oak and cork-oak forests that are part of the gorgeous scenery surrounding the Alcántara Reservoir. The reservoir is an excellent place for water sports, hiking, and horse riding. Tejo River also provides many spots for nature and fishing lovers.
The town of Alcantara holds some of the most important monuments in the urban layout, among which are the churches of San Benito, San Pedro and Rocamadour. The rich ornamentation of these religious temples is the evidence of the great wealth Spain brought from the discovery and colonization of America.
The municipality of Alcántara is the ideal place for those who wish to spend their leisure time surrounded by nature. The natural wealth of the area provides a myriad of possibilities for visitors such as walking trails, bicycle riding, quad biking, or horse riding.
Cáceres – A Magical and Medieval Spanish Paradise
Cáceres is the capital city of Extremadura. The city’s origins lie in the Roman encampment of Norba Caesarian. Cáceres was a backwater region until Columbus’s discovery of the New World, when many of its people left to seek their fortune, found it in the Americas, and returned as wealthy men. Many monuments of Cáceres including towered palaces, churches, and convents hold the legacy of that spectacular boom.
Cáceres is two cities in one. Down below lies the busy, traffic-filled, modern city, while above it on a promontory, guarded by medieval walls and watchtowers, stands the silent and slightly mysterious Casco Viejo.
The population of Cáceres as a whole is around 100,000 however only 380 people live in the old town like a tiny rural village. In the old town, you can find some antique shops, bars, and various convents.
Jerez de los Cabalerros – A Melting Pot of Culture, Knowledge, and Art
Jerez de Los Caballeros is a city in the province of Badajoz. The origins of Jerez de Los Caballeros date back to the time of the Phoenicians, although it has always been inhabited by the various cultures who arrived on the Peninsula. Roman villas, Visigothic remains, and Arab influences all form part of the landscape in this area which lies halfway between Portugal and Andalusia. This cultural diversity can also be found in many of its traditions and customs.
The old town of Jerez de Los Caballeros has been declared Property of Cultural Interest. The historic quarter of Jerez de Los Caballeros combines both popular architectures with ancient churches, convents, noble houses, and mansions, all watched over by the imposing Templar Fortress with its Arab origins. The walls surrounding Jerez de Los Caballeros extend for one and a half kilometers and have different layers of history. The 15th-16th century stone blocks are built over the original Arab walls and are reinforced by defensive turrets and towers.
Interesting religious buildings include the churches of La Encarnación (16th century), San Bartolomé (15th-17th centuries), San Miguel (16th-18th centuries) and Santa Catalina (16th century), as well as the convent of San Agustín, today the site of the Town Hall.
Nature’s Playground in Spain
Top-3 Natural Places to Visit in Extremadura
The natural scenery of Extremadura is breathtaking with its fresh water gorges, rivers, natural swimming pools, dams, and lakes.
Meandro Melero – Dramatic Scenery not for the Faint Hearted!
Meandro Melero is a nature park and wildlife area with breathtaking views and landscapes. To get to the Meandro Melero you need to go along a very narrow road which then becomes a dirt road with plenty of rocks, drop-offs, and a road which might frighten those afraid of heights. If you don’t mind the long drive, the views are more than worth the effort.
Garganta Mayor – Where Breathtaking Waterfalls Meet Meandering Rivers
The Garganta Mayor is a river with many waterfalls near a very picturesque medieval town in Spain. It is great for swimming in the natural pool in the river and visitors can also hike along the riverbanks listening to the sounds of the surrounding cascades.The walk along the river is about a half mile from the village to the top of the trail. In the spring, the stream is scenic and fast-moving providing a home to various birds and beautiful flora.
Las Pilatillas de Abajo – Cool Down in Natural Swimming Pools
Las Piletillas de Abajo is a natural gorge that is nested in the mountains leaving little pools where one can swim. The lower Las Piletillas is the biggest pool and if you want to swim, this is the most suitable. Visitors must remember that the pool is closed in the summer. The three pools are called respectively Piletillas de Arriba, Chaco Calderon, and Piletillas de Abajo. They are not far from the Monastery of Yuste or the German Military Cemetery.
Cuisine of Monasteries and Abbeys
Top-3 Dishes to Try in Extremadura
The Extremadura region has been producing different rural products, crops, and livestock, which influence local dishes. Extremaduran gastronomy takes its roots from convents, where illustrious visitors were seeking rest, peace, and good food. That’s why monasteries and abbeys of the region have created many culinary delights. Monasteries of the region have given hospitality serving local delicacies to many high-ranking nobleman, including Emperor Carlos V.
Gazpacho Extremeno – A Spanish Classic that Cannot be Missed
Gazpacho Extremeno is the classic Spanish chilled vegetable soup made with bread, tomatoes, garlic, spring onion, cucumber, and Sherry. Often in Spanish tradition, the soup is served with a topping of Iberico ham, onion, red pepper, and egg. The soup originated in the southern region of Andalusia and is now widely eaten in Spain and Portugal, particularly during hot summers, as it is refreshing and cool.
Potaje de Garbanzos y Judias Blancas – An Exquisite Local Delicacy
This traditional Spanish dish has for centuries been served on Good Friday due to the abstinence from eating meat on a Holy Day. Many people think the dish is difficult to make and so mainly order it in restaurants. The dish is a traditional chickpea and bean stew which is sometimes made even more delicious with salted cod and a boiled egg.
Sopa Blanca de Ajos – Spanish White Garlic Soup
When soup is mentioned, one often associates a cold winter’s day and cuddling with a favorite blanket. In Spain, soups are enjoyed all year-round, and they are famously known for their cold summer soup. Sopa Blanca de Ajos is a zesty soup which is refreshing and has a range of excellent health benefits. Ajo Blanco translates to White Garlic Soup, but don’t let the name fool you, the main ingredient in this soup is actually blanched almonds.
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Map of Wineries in Extremadura wine region
Discover the long wine tradition of Extremadura and discover some of the best wineries in this region
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